NEW YORK (CNS) — The harshly violent crime drama “21 Bridges” (STX) never explores the many themes it hints at raising.
There’s a vengeful — or so we’re told — police detective, Andre (Chadwick Boseman), who has for years tried to avenge the death of his father in the line of duty by a shoot-’em-up approach to encountering criminals. He’s fond of intoning observations such as “Justice comes at a cost.”
At Dad’s funeral, shown in flashback, the priest cites the warning to evildoers about those in authority in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: “He does not bear God’s sword in vain.”
There are also two mercilessly violent bad guys, Michael (Stephan James) and Ray (Taylor Kitsch), both of whom, like Andre, have suffered from missing fathers. Andre is among those on their trail after a major drug theft, with hundreds of kilos of cocaine, ends with the grisly deaths of eight police officers among the carloads who show up to investigate what they thought was a break-in.
In the pursuit, Andre has to decide whether his search for justice should be tempered with mercy.
As for Capt. McKenna (J.K. Simmons) and detective Frankie (Sienna Miller), are either of them the righteous figures they appear to be? Or have they made their own accommodations with dark bargains?
Most of the plot, in the classic film-noir style, takes place over a single night as police seal off Manhattan after figuring out that the cop-killers have neither means nor motivation to get very far without their payoffs. Potential egress consists of 21 bridges and tunnels, hence the title.
Then, Andre declares, “we flood the island with blue.”
Director Brian Kirk and screenwriters Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan never let this promising structure produce much in the way of surprise — or even reflection. Once a character has served a tiny piece of the plot, death by gunfire follows swiftly. The resultant high body count and splatter factor as well as the numbing drumbeat of foul dialogue necessitate a restrictive classification.
Taut pacing, in this case, is no cover for failed aspirations.
The film contains pervasive gun violence with some gore and relentless rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
PREVIOUS: ‘Charlie’s Angels’ fly high with adventure, humor
NEXT: At year’s end ‘Knives Out’ among year’s best films
Share this story